If you are like me, every now and then there is this innate urge to sink your teeth into a delectable cookie. It’s the ultimate comfort food, that pairs deliciously well with a steaming cup of hot green tea.
As an ardent anti-cancer diet follower though, I had a dilemma! Indulging in a cookie is not exactly congruent with keeping my sugar-intake at bay. Store-bought cookies here in the US are super sweet, and laden with refined sugars and flours that can cause your blood sugar level to sky-rocket. Even home-made cookies usually ask for a hefty dose of sugar. So why is this of concern you may ask.
We have known for a long time that sugar fuels cancer growth.
Way back in 1931 the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to German researcher Dr Otto Warburg who stated then, over 80 years ago, that cancer cells metabolize energy differently than healthy cells, via the glucose fermentation process.
This means they need sugar as fuel, and lots of it as this method of energy production is much less efficient. So in order for a tumor cell to survive, they need copious amounts of glucose, between 5-50 times more than normal cells.
Cancer cells, no matter where they originate from, have adapted to this by having a much higher number of glucose receptor cells on their membranes. This phenomenon is even used in today’s medical tests. Consider how a PET scan works. Prior to the scan you get injected with radioactively labeled glucose. The whole point of a PET scan is to find areas where glucose is taken up at a much faster rate than elsewhere, indicating the probable presence of an active tumor.
So by indulging in a super sweet cookie, I may as well be the pied paper whistling a tune to attract cancer cells. Yet dietary sugar in itself is not only the issue here. Rather, if the body cannot manage normal blood sugar levels, a problem called “insulin resistance” develops, which can be detrimental to an anti-cancer internal environment.
When our food is digested, carbohydrates are mostly converted to glucose, which with the help of the hormone insulin gets delivered to our cells for survival energy production. You heard me right, our body does need glucose, just not floods of it! It can become a vicious cycle. If glucose levels in the blood are too high, more insulin is secreted by the pancreas. If insulin levels in the blood spike, this stresses the body and creates a simmering inflammatory reaction. And this can provides an environment in the body that favors tumor growth and progression.
Still eyeing that super sweet cookie? Here’s one more red flag. Most store-bought cookies are made using hydrogenated oils and fats, a big “no-no” not just in a cancer-fighting kitchen. Why?
Fats are converted into chemical messengers (eicosanoids) which are either pro-inflammatory, and thus harmful or anti-inflammatory, and thus beneficial. We need both kinds, but too much of the pro-inflammatory kind can damage your cell membranes, the site of nutrient and waster interchange, and can lead to cellular inflammation, which can fuel cancer growth. Hydrogenated oils present in most processed foods have been denatured, they have been found to damage our delicate cell membranes.
But I really, really want a cookie, every now and then!
So here’s what I do. I make my own, and I make sure that sweet treat doubles up as a high-protein, low-sugar snack made with the right kind of fat. There is no need to eliminate all sugar, as our bodies do need glucose as fuel, just not in the amount and form we are exposed to in our westernized culture on a daily basis. Sound like a perfect solution?
5 Steps to a nutrient-dense, guilt-free Cookie
- refined white flour with whole wheat pastry or spelt flour with a dash of almond or coconut flour
- white sugar with a whole foods sweetener such as maple syrup or coconut palm sugar, and use half of what any recipe out there calls for
- hydrogenated fats as found in margarine or vegetable oils with coconut oil or real butter from pastured cows as a fat source
- choose dark chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet morsels
- add some protein: hemp seeds, chopped nuts, rolled oats or ground flax or chia seeds
And a final note: This makes for a more dense and filling cookie, but it’s still a treat, and that means indulging in moderation! Devouring the entire cookie tin in one sitting can turn even a nutrient-dense cookie into an unhealthy habit J
Guilt-free Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 sticks (1 cup or ½ lb) organic butter, softened (preferably from grass-fed cows)
1 cup coconut palm sugar
2 organic, free range eggs
1 ½ tsp vanilla essence
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup spelt flour
¾ cup hulled hemp seeds or chopped walnuts or pecans
¾ cup rolled oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt
2-3 cups dark chocolate chips (at least 60%, Ghiradelli’s is a good brand)
Combine wet ingredients.
Combine dry ingredients.
Mix both wet and dry ingredients.
Place heaped TBPS size dough 1” apart onto baking sheet lined cookie sheet.
Makes approx. 30-45 cookies depending on size
Bake at 350 ° F for approx. 12-15 minutes